In last week’s cliffhanger, my buddy Sparky, the erstwhile electrical contractor / data-comm-installer / cabling tech, challenged me to hit him with my best shot. My best shot, that is, in terms of content marketing. Eyes on the prize, people.
How Do You Come Up with Blog Post Ideas for Any Business?
Especially for Obscure, Niche, Non-Glam, B2B Businesses
Let’s face it: Most of us were born and raised in a society where marketing is high art as well as a finely tuned science of behavioral manipulation.
That’s why I think most of us could come up with blog ideas — all day, every day — for glamorous businesses and sexy products. Doesn’t even have to be all that glam or sexy, just familiar enough to most consumers. And, by “most consumers,” friends, I mean you and me.
Look at the recent Johnsonville commercial spots, for example, “created” by long-time team members (and/or a highly paid ad firm with some Millennial chops). I’m not sure which I like better: Jeff and his Forest Friends or Brett’s Regular Speed Chase.
If Jeff can talk to animals, then you too can come up with some blog topic ideas focused on food. Even if you’re vegan or grew up with a different cuisine.
But what about tax preparation? Online farm equipment auctions? Freight hauling? Estate planning? Mergers and acquisitions? Bankruptcy proceedings? Custom parts machining? Lean process consulting?
Or data communications installations — you know, the kindly folks that make the internet run, like my buddy Sparky. Thank you, data comm folks.
First, Do Your Research.
If it’s your business, there may be less research, or there may be more. If you’ve been in it, and in the weeds, for years doing the business — as opposed to working on the business — then it’s likely you no longer see the forest for the trees. Or even the trees for that matter. You might see bark and branching patterns at least.
If you’re like me, the hired hand brought in from the outside to “do the social,” then you’ll have to research, too.
I’ll walk you through the process I like to use for Sparky or any other client. On the first pass, stay very high-level. If we can borrow from the forest and trees metaphor, swoop up above the forest. Not quite gliding on thermals, like an eagle, but above the tree line like a hawk.
For Sparky’s specific situation, I googled my key phrase and the search results returned DMOZ’s website/business directory for Computers >> Data Communications >> Installation. And I said, Aha! Eureka! Let’s see how other folks do it! [EDITOR’S NOTE: DMOZ WAS TAKEN DOWN IN MARCH 2017 AND NO LONGER EXISTS]
Click Around & Check Out the Competitive Landscape
I spent an hour or two poking around, looking at websites and blogs, seeing whose content has kept up with the times and whose looks like it went live in 1992. And even found some that hasn’t been touched since. I popped the hood. I rooted around in the underbrush. Just went digging.
Props to Accicable for the best tagline I’ve seen in this line of business: Bridging the Gap Between Construction and IT. In case you were still wondering what data comm techs
do. The fine folks at Langistic Networks explain it further on their Structured Cabling page. Data comm is the “… the foundation of the network itself and too few IT consultants understand this area of technology.”
While You’re There, Take Notes on Possible Keywords
By “keywords,” I mean words that are key, that are clutch, that occur regularly in the literature of the field of inquiry. I don’t necessarily mean SEO Keywords.
Here, let me show you my notes. You can tell I tried to start out neat and then I ran over. That’s totally okay.
Arrange Your Notes into Patterns or Themes
Basically, whether you’re a newcomer winging over the forest for the first time or the business owner backing away from the forest so you can see it anew, you’ve done enough research now to play pattern recognition.
That’s why it was okay if you’re notes got a little slipshod on your first pass. Because now you’re going rearrange them and puzzle-piece them together into a shape that makes sense. Like this:
I grouped data comm into at least 4 major themes:
1. The Ever-Popular New Tech & Exciting Future Trends Theme
Because even people who aren’t currently looking to buy what you’re selling love to read about the future. Thus, broadening your audience and widening your sales funnel to capture leads for nurturing.
- Internet of Things (#IoT)
- Data Centers
- “The Cloud”
- & so much more!
2. The BIG Issues in the Business
Because if they’re thinking about buying what you’re selling and still deciding from whom to buy it — rather, with whom to enter a relationship to fulfill these needs — they want to know where you stand on key service areas and how you deliver it.
- Energy Usage & Efficiency
- Costs to Install, Run, Maintain
- & then some!
3. Services and Capabilities
If your site visitor is still on-site and really starting to think you might be a match, they want to know if you’ve done similar work to what they need now. They want to know how well it went and what the clients thought when you were done. They want pictures, stories, case studies, references, and testimonials. All of that can be done as individual blog posts.
- Building systems: fire and emergency, CCTV, security, sound, etc.
- High-speed signaling
- Traditional telephony & PBX
- Wireless, WLAN, DAS
- & other stuff I know nothing about.
4. Tools of the Trade
Same as 3, really. Also, some clients like to pretend to know as much as you do and to be able to do what you do, if only they had the time. In fact, as in my line of work, they really could, they really have, and they really would, but they don’t have the time. That’s why they hire it out.
But, they still like to talk shop. So, talk shop with them, won’t ya?
- Fiber, coax, & copper, Oh my!
- Cabinets, racks, trays
- Converters, cross-connects, interconnects
- Cat 5, Cat 5E, Cat 6, Cat 6A and so on
- Inside Plant, Outside Plant, Upside Down
- & I’m getting a little punch drunk.
If this is your industry, you know all of these things like I know a WordPress dashboard. Which is to say, pretty well.
And, while your clients and prospective clients may not bring these things up at their next cocktail party, they may appreciate your posts on them enough to ripple into a conversion.
Let’s say two vendors are in town, both available to lay cable. One of them has a standard 5-page website you’d expect to see on the Wayback Machine. The other guy, like my buddy Sparky, has an up-to-date, optimized and responsive site that’s regularly refreshed with new relevant content. Who do you think will get the bid?
Note: There are as many ways to research as there are, um, data sets that are big. Furthermore, once you’ve narrowed your focus to a few themes, you’ll be ready for more research.
And not just to put words in posts. You’ll need to hone your titles. If you’re handy with the Adwords Keyword Planner from Google, check out Darren Rowse’s Problogger classic.
A somewhat more user-friendly approach is to play with title and topic generators. Wordstream lists 8 and explains how to use them to your advantage.
Lastly, for what it’s worth, this is a pretty green field in terms of content marketing. I did not find very many electrical contractors or data comm installers stateside with a robust online presence.
And just in case you can’t get enough of this stuff, I found a blog post adjacent to the field for your reading pleasure — Critical Electrical Systems Group.
I shall close with what I think is a very worthwhile, easy-to-duplicate tweet suggestion from DCR Electrical Ltd, also in the UK, who do not have a blog. Just sayin’.
— DCR Electrical Ltd (@dcrelectrical) August 1, 2016
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